Warning: This post may contain content or links to content considered to be obscene/objectionable by some viewers.
Just a friendly reminder: you have until tonight, the witching hour, Pacific Standard Time, to play The Fool’sIllusion Trick-Or-Treat Giveaway. You have a chance at winning my book of short fiction and therefore not having to pay to own a copy. In fact, if you win you get two copies—one the Kindle version, the other print.
Now, if you really want free stuff without having to depend totally on chance, here is my Halloween treat to you: I have included in this post an excerpt from The Fool’s Illusion. So you can get a sweet taste of what the book is like with out having to pay a single penny. Better yet, the excerpt consists of an entire story. It’s not just a scene that suddenly drops off at the end leaving you hanging on the noose of knowledge and curiosity. The story is definitely fitting for the season, both for Halloween and the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration that comes two days after.
But you probably would rather have the whole book for free. Who doesn’t want free stuff especially in today’s expensive economy? So I urge you to play. The box below has been dead as a graveyard since the contest started last week. Raise that dead to life with your wonderful attempt to answer the quiz questions. The questions are on horror fiction, movies and TV. The winner isn’t selected merely by correct answers but by who answers the questions correctly soonest. (Please see previous post for more details.) So, if you don’t win, you’ll at least have the great feeling of either testing your knowledge of the horror genre or increasing that knowledge. I’ll list the correct answers when I announce the winner which will be by this Saturday 2nd November.
Okay, so maybe there will only be one winner. But it’s certain that it won’t be you if you don’t participate. And if you don’t win? Purchase the book on Kindle. It costs less than a buck.* It’s the next best thing to free!
I’ll leave you with that for now. Have a Happy Halloween and Days of the Dead (for those who celebrate the latter)! And take scare.
* Price may not include shipping/handling or tax.
Planet of the Dead
By Steven Rose, Jr.
Note from the author: I apologise for the mixed font. For some reason the font tool was not working on Blogger apparently. Hopefully it will get fixed soon.
The moaning wind of the cemetery colony was already attempting to bury the landing pad that Buster Ross had lowered his ship on in the surrounding, desert sand. The funerary agent from Earth ran quickly toward the looming nearly-all-glass funerary building both to escape the storm as well as to meet the master of this literally dead planet. Both pad and building were surrounded by tomb stones from nearly every region on Earth, many of the stones rolling with the dunes and sinking into the dark of the hollows. They were stone and metal crops, some of them being simple plaques or stump-size stones barely rising up out of the ground, others more fully risen. Yet a seed lay below each of those stone and metal crops, a seed known as the human corpse. The official name of the planet was Memoria. The Global Government on Earth wanted to be sure its name was as honorable sounding as possible to the ones buried there. Some people on Earth called the planet New Giza for its millions of tombs as well as for its desert geography. However, many people called the planet by a derivative of Ancient Egypt’s City of the Dead; many people called it the Planet of the Dead.
Immediately arriving at the front door, Ross was stopped by a cold electronic voice: “State your purpose for entering, please.”
Ross said, “I’m here to see a Mr. Juan Moreno.”
The electronic voice said, “Thank you. Now please state your purpose for your visit with Mr. Moreno.” While it spoke, Ross noticed that it generated from a speaker on a small, white box framed within the all-glass wall to the left of the door. A tiny bead of an “eye” glowed red in the upper center of the box.
Ross said, “To pick up some bodies and transport them back to Earth.”
The electronic guard said, “Thank you. Now give your name, please.” Ross did that, impatience beginning to well up from within. Then the automated guard told him to state who sent him. And the guard’s questions went on like this another five times. Then a red beam of light streamed out from the ruby eye and scanned him for weapons. When the red light disappeared a loud click sounded from the double front doors and they slid open. Ross entered when suddenly a 20-something girl walked up to him.
Her face was very pale due to the amount of makeup covering it, and she wore dark gray eye-shadow. Her eye lashes were long and black, and, likewise, her hair was also black and shiny. However, although her features were Hispanic, one could tell that her very strait hair was an unnatural color. She reminded him of people he had seen on the Net in encyclopedia illustrations and black-and-white video clips to articles on 19th century society and ones on the 20th century’s horror movie industry. It was as if she had walked out of a scene from one of those weird, ancient films. She wore a long, black tail coat with a tight black satin vest underneath and underneath that a snug, white 19th century shirt. On her head she wore a black derby. The pants she wore were tight, shiny black stirrups that seemed to merge with the polished, black Victorian gentleman’s shoes she wore with the raised heels which made the shoes look more feminine. Her appearance was almost melodramatic.
“Mr. Ross?” she said, with a dead expression.
Ross smiled and stammered, “Tha-, that’s right. I’m here to See Mr. Moreno.” He did not expect to be greeted by such an odd character as this girl, if it could be called a greeting. Saying nothing else, the girl walked over to a somewhat crescent moon-shaped desk that appeared to be built into the marble floor since both were white. There she pressed a key and spoke into a microphone in which, like the key, was built into the desk. “Mr. Moreno, Mr. Ross has arrived.” As it was when had spoken to Ross, her tone was expressionless. A man’s voice faintly sounded from an inconspicuous speaker on the desk saying he would be down shortly.
After that, the girl said nothing else. Instead, she keyed information into the desk’s terminal without looking up while Ross waited. Her movement and pose were so repetitious and monotonous, they seemed robotic.
“Mr. Ross?” echoed a man’s voice from above. Ross, startled flashed his head up toward the direction of the voice which was the gleaming, winding metal stair well. At the top of it was a man who looked to be around Ross’s age, 60.
Ross answered, “Yes?”
“I’m Manuel Moreno.”
Ross introduced himself, although awkwardly. He was shocked at Mr. Moreno’s appearance more than he had been the girl’s.
’s skin was a very pale brown, his gray
hair disheveled. He wore a black,
Victorian suit. So many youngsters are
bad enough, but such an appearance is way out of the norm for a man of any age,
thought Ross, proudly patting his short-cut, neatly combed hair. Moreno
the bottom of the stairs, Ross walked up to him and the two men shook
hands. Moreno said, “Delighted to have you here, Mr.
Ross.” His smile was faint. Then gesturing to the stairway, he said,
“Would you kindly walk this way, please?” Moreno
Ross walked up the stairs, hesitantly, looking back toward
out of his eye’s corner. Moreno
Juan Moreno held the door open and gestured to Ross to enter. Victorian and neo-Gothic furnishings made the room appear more a study than an office. One of the few exceptions to the old-style atmosphere was the transparent wall behind the funerary manager’s desk. It looked out onto the fields of grave stones.
door, he offered Ross a seat in front of the desk lined with armies of
skeletons and skulls. Many of these were idealized with the thick, black lines
of features in the style of the Mexican Dias des los Muertos. Several others
were more realistic appearing. More of
these figurines appeared in various places on his book shelf. Some of the life-size skulls looked so real they
looked as if they had just recently been shoveled up from the graves
outside. Panting, Ross more than gladly
accepted Moreno ’s
offer. He was too used to taking
elevators. However, Moreno had no reaction at all to the walk; he
breathed as normally as if he had not even gone anywhere. Moreno
After several pants, Ross, answered, “I would like that a lot, thank you.”
“What would you like?”
Ross said, “Whatever your favorite is, as long as it’s thirst quenching.”
After sitting down at his desk,
grabbed the receiver to his long necked 1920’s phone and ordered an employee to
bring them a bottle of amontillado and two glasses. He said, “We have received news, Mr. Ross,
that the descendants of some of our residents have contacted you.” Moreno
Ross paused. Then he said, “Residents?”
Ross stared with bewilderment at
seconds before saying, “But they’re already called units, Mr. Moreno, why would
they need to be called anything else?” Moreno
“Mr. Moreno, did I hear you correctly?” Ross asked, bewildered. “Did you just call your attendants pall bearers, caretakers, morticians?”
Eyeing the books, Ross said, “Mr. Moreno, those are amazing. But isn’t it much easier, space efficient and safer for the value of these hardbound books to read . . .” his look of confusion turned to one of coldness as he studied the titles on the spines, “those, on computer? I mean it seems like such a waste of money when you can read literature for free on the Network.” The titles indicated dark, threatening things: titles such as Poe’s Tales of Terror, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lovecraft’s The Dunwhich Horror and Other Tales, among many, many others of their kind.
“Well I don’t know about that,” said Ross, “but what’s the point in reading a story if it doesn’t relate to the problems that we have to deal with today?”
Ross said, “Mr. Moreno, the crimes are the problems, not the motivations, not the fears of the crime, but the crimes themselves.”
“My apologies, Mr. Ross,” interrupted
, “but I think I
should make ourselves aware that we should discuss the corpses that you came
for; we are very busy here on Memoria.” Moreno
Ross said, “Oh, I’m sorry, we’re going off topic. I have to be back to Earth by tomorrow, myself.” Ross snapped open his briefcase and pulled out several papers documenting the evidence of the corpses’ living descendants. He began explaining them when he was interrupted by a pounding at the door.
The door swung open revealing a young man who appeared to be in his early 20s. He almost looked like he could be a twin brother to the girl, Felicia; his way of dress and bodily features were very similar to hers except the shoes did not have the heightened heals and the hair was a lot shorter.
Luther said indifferently, “They found another fresh corpse.”
Luther nodded, his powdered face without expression.
“One of the construction workers.”
Luther said in his expressionless tone, “They do not know.”
“What do you mean?” asked Ross.
“The construction workers never go out to the graves,” said
grimly. Then he turned to Luther. “Was
there any sign of the method of the murder?
Were there hand marks on his throat like the two previous men?” Moreno
Luther said, “We do not know; we have not pulled him out yet.”
Keeping in mind
’s unusual archaic style of speech and
outdated clothes, Ross said, “This is no game now?” Moreno
Ross corrected, “You mean there have been homicides on Memoria?”
Ross asked, “Have you called the Police?”
“I am the police on Memoria,”
said. “I have gone
through the police training, and I am authorized to make an arrest of the
suspect if we ever find him or her. This
is why the Global Government has not assigned any police or even mere security
guards here on Memoria. As we all know,
Earth has been in economic crisis since the planetary colonial war. The only security we have here, aside from
myself, is Sphinx, our automated guard at the front door who asked you to
identify yourself.” Moreno
Ross said, “Yes, and she did a really good job of it. She played 20 Questions with me 20 hundred times, which included ‘state your reason for moving the bodies, please.’” He said this with a slight nasal sound to imitate the guard’s electronic voice. “Come on, why does security need to know that? What other reasons would people like myself have to come to a planet of dead people we don’t even know?”
“Forgive me, Mr. Ross, but I recently programmed her to ask those questions to anybody who comes to the gate from outside due to the incidents I had just indicated: two men have been murdered; now, as we have just been told, there is a third. We thought the murderer may have incoming connections from Earth. Like our mother planet, we must use caution when visitors come to Memoria.”
The Earth funerary agent said, sarcastically, “So like on Earth, everyone’s suspect when a crime is committed here?”
, his two
attendants, Ross, and the construction crew foreman approached the burial site,
the Earth funerary agent and foreman were the only two who were breathing heavily
with exhaustion. Ross said, “I think it
would’ve been better to have taken the buggy, Mr. Moreno. You people must keep in great shape; I’m ready
to die.” He looked around at the
tombstones. Then he said, “But if I do,
please don’t bury me here; I have known family still living on Earth,
thank you.” Moreno
The body lay in the open coffin at the bottom of the freshly dug grave. The corpse seemed to be frozen in terror, eyes wide and mouth gaped open. It looked as though it had seen something too horrible to exist. It made Ross’s stomach sick to the point where he had to swing his head away from it.
The foreman said, mournfully, “The last time any of us had seen him was just a little before dawn this morning. He was eating breakfast with all of us and then went out for his morning smoke as usual, after that we never saw him again.” He took a deep, quivering swallow of breath and exhaled, “Until now.”
Henriksen said, “Not that any of us know of. He often just stands right outside the dining caravan to do that.”
The foreman shook his head.
Ross said, with suspicion, “Mr. Moreno, you keep saying ‘murder’ rather than ‘homicide’. ‘Murder’ has not been in use for centuries. Why do you use this outdated jargon?”
“You act like incidents such as this are games of some sort,” Ross said, gesturing to the open grave where the bone-white mechanical hand of the pulley was beginning to raise the corpse. “Someone has just been killed and you turn it into entertainment!”
“What does speaking in all these outdated terms have to do with natural life?” asked Ross, confused.
“You said it again: ‘caretakers’. That gives a very negative connotation to a monument ground to most people now days.”
Suddenly, Luther called out from the edge of the hollowed grave, “Mr. Moreno, hand marks on the neck like the other ones.”
Ross exclaimed to
“How the hell can that be? No one from
the caravan heard any commotion.” Moreno
Ross said, “I thought there was no native life on the planet.”
said, “Returning to your argument against politically ‘incorrect’ speech, Mr.
Ross, I must make it known to you that I have my own ideas and beliefs of what
a graveyard should be like. And as I
have just said, I am not a man of the present. That is why I took the position of undertaker
here on Memoria, or, if you prefer, since you don’t speak our language, monument
ground manager.” Moreno
Ross stammered, “This, this is, a little unusual. I, I have to say, very unusual. Such language hasn’t been used for centuries. . . it’s so antiquated . . .“
”Yes, it is, because, you see, ever since Earth forbade its people to speak that dialect, people like ourselves here on Memoria who still speak it have been treated like old people who have no significance to Earth’s societies. Therefore we are antiquated and so are of no use to Earth’s advanced technocratic societies and neither is our dialect.
“Earth’s societies felt that our poetic manner of speaking gave a sense of discomfort and tension for the loved ones of the . . . dead, as we, whether you people like it or not, refer to them here. If we were not treated like old fashioned outcasts, then we were treated like young trouble-making punks. I, of course, am not of youth anymore but I have a youthful state of mind, the very same state that my two gothic caretakers have, and they are of youth. The ultra liberals hated us for wanting to leave unknown corpses on Earth because they felt it took away space for the living, especially the living who were very poor and who needed housing that they could afford and facilities that could give charity to them. The conservatives hated us not only for wanting to leave the bodies of unknown people in earth that capital-oriented developers wanted to build over, but also merely for the way we dressed.
“Both conservatives and liberals saw the dead who preceded them as non-existent merely because their bodies had no documented identification. And so as with the people buried here on this remote desert planet, we do not exist to Earth either; we are just as dead as the buried residents are.”
The whole time
had been speaking, Ross’s face was paling and his eyes were wide. Moreno
snapped, “Now I know most definitely that you are one of them,
Mr. Ross, one of the Earthlings who side with the material/technological masses
who are so centered on self gain that they will not consider the bodies of the
ancestors who have gone before them.” Then
he smiled and asked mockingly, “Do you realize how pale you are? You look like I have just told you that . . .
I killed . . . somebody.” Moreno ’s mocking
expression turned to a stunned and angry one.
“So simply because I speak, a ‘foreign’ language, Mr. Ross, you think I
killed those people? That is exactly the
reason why people like myself and my attendants came to this planet, Mr. Ross,
because everybody on
globalized Earth who lives a little bit of a different lifestyle is under
suspicion when something goes wrong.
Well now that you suspect me, Mr. Ross, and are going to report me, may
I give you a little tour of that house I’m having built? I am certain you already think I am mad.”
Ross said, “Yes I’m aware that you’re mad, and so am I, because you’re taking this homicide very lightly when you’re all so willing too show me your new house. Just what do you need that new house for anyway? You have a free one from the Global Government.”
Ross said, mockingly and with accusation, “But you said one of you here on this world has got to be behind these homicides. If you don’t find out who that is now who will be next?”
“Mr. Ross, my attendants who have worked for me for a sufficient period of time and, therefore, whom I trust, will keep an eye out on the area. If anything looks or sounds suspicious they will notify me immediately.”
“Do you have a communicator?”
“Of course. All of the Government’s facilities are required to have one of those damn things.”
Ross corrected, “No, do you have a portable communicator with you?”
Ross snapped, “Because you’re not a man of the present, right, Mr. Moren? Because if you were, then you would care about keeping up with today’s technology for emergencies like this!”
Raising his voice authoritatively,
said, “Mr. Ross, devices such as your portable communicators, and
much of the other damned technology that has grown along with them, including
condensed Network versions of our classic literature, is the cause of murders
such as the one that has occurred this day.
Because of this technology, no living soul cares about life anymore, Mr.
Ross, because there is no life. There is
only the soulless machine. And because
of that there is no mystery.
If there is no life, there is no mystery!” Moreno
Ross shouted, pointing toward himself, “We are life, Mr. Moreno. And so it’s our duty to take care of ourselves and preserve ourselves as a people, but we can’t do that if we let a killer run around loose! Maybe you’re too secular to understand that! Maybe you take too much advantage of the world’s freedom of belief; maybe you’re just too damn atheist to care about the life of humanity!”
“Mr. Moreno, technology was advanced to solve the world’s problems such as crime like the one that happened this morning. It is a sin against humanity to not keep up with technological advancements all because you’re only concerned about your own aesthetic interest! Or should I say atheistic interest?”
“Please,” said Ross, disbelievingly.
As the two men started walking back toward the facility, Ross asked, “By the way, Mr. Moreno, if you’re not an atheist, what religion do you practice?”
The funerary director stopped. He paused staring hard at Ross. Then he said, sarcastically, “I thought religion had no place in government, in our employments, Mr. Ross. Should it be of any concern to you what my religious beliefs are? Now, if you still want to see my house, then I shall show it to you, if not, then we shall retrieve the bodies you came for.”
Ross said with suspicion, “I would like to see the house, Mr. Moreno.”
They crossed the symmetrical-style front yard with the perfectly trimmed lawn and trees in order to get to the back of the government-made funerary building where a small, narrow gate stood. The shadowy structure could be seen looming in the distance before
opened the tan, smoothly painted,
wrought iron gate. As the gate swung
open absent of any creaks, the shadowy structure was revealed to be a partially
built medieval castle. The portions of
walls that had already been built around the skeleton consisted of all storm
gray stones chaotically masoned together.
There was a tower in the front part of the castle. The whole structure looked like some half
decaying brontosaurus or giant serpent lying on top of a high Egyptian sand
dune, looking as though it were raising its long neck from a
fossilized hibernation. A hibernation that any sane person would pray that it
would never wake up from.
Ross gasped, “What is this?”
Ross said, “No one builds houses like these any more.”
“I am very well aware of that; that is the precise reason why I am having this one built.”
Ross criticized, “I have never seen anything like this. Not in real life. The only places I’ve ever saw such horrible architecture is on the Network at certain sites. Honestly, Mr. Moreno, this is very disrespectful to the people who are buried here. It gives a monument ground a very negative connotation.”
Mr. Moreno said, “That is the problem with society, Mr. Ross. Man has always been afraid of death; he has always seen it as an arch enemy of humanity; he has always seen it as the ultimate menace as though it should never have existed. And so throughout history, he has identified it through the dark, deteriorating haunted castle in our literature and films. But ironically, Mr. Ross, it is a part of life. Without death, there can be no life.
“People always try to put off that which is infinitely greater than themselves: they get surgery done on their body parts to prevent themselves from aging (there are no more wise old men or wise old women; in fact, people move as far away as possible from their own parents and grandparents because their parents and grandparents represent the death that they fear since the elderly are so near it); they put chemicals on their scalps to prevent balding or they surgically have them replaced with the scalps of the dead who did not have enough respect for their own bodies and so in their wills gave their parts away to strangers; they put manufactured remedies in their hair to ward off graying; they go as far as having machine organs put into them to avoid their natural deaths! They try to cheat Death, as the old saying goes. But, Mr. Ross, history all the way up to this point has proven that you cannot thwart Death’s plans! But scientists are constantly trying to thwart them. They are now going to the extreme of trying to locate the microscopic organ that stops the overall process of the body’s functioning, that which ‘brings’ about death, so they can remove even it.”
Ross said, “Mr. Moreno, all religions, or nearly all at least, believe in the preservation of life. And that is why most religions try to prevent death.”
insisted, “Death is Life!” Moreno
Ross remembered a biblical saying similar to
last statement. It suddenly dawned on
him what religion Moreno
practiced. However, he asked to make
sure, “Mr. Moreno, you having a Spanish surname, I would like to say are Catholic. But I have big feeling you’re not.” Moreno
Ross verified, “So you’re not Catholic?”
Moreno shook his head with a proud grin like a child who thinks he’s out-smarted an adult, and then said, “My religion, if you must know--” then his grin turned to one of a solemn expression, “and if you tell the Government and they get suspicious like yourself, then I am willing to die for my religion--my religion is a break-off of my ancestral Catholicism, Mr. Ross.”
Ross guessed, although he knew he was wrong, “You or your family were converts to Protestantism?”
The proud childish grin grew back. “No, it is much newer than any Protestant sect, although there have been similar religions in the most ancient of times.”
“You don’t even worship God,” Ross said.
“Not that god, Mr. Ross. You people were wrong about God nearly all of history.”
“You worship . . . Death,” he said, as much as he dreaded to, with a cold gasp, eyes wide, face pale like the one of the corpse that the bone white pulley had rolled away with. Then he choked out, “Only a worshiper of Death could commit such a homicide as the one committed today.”
At this, Ross gasped, “You would let ill people suffer, you cold blooded bastard!”
“We are not of cold blood in our beliefs, Mr. Ross, because we prevent acts such as euthanasia in order to save poor suicidal souls from even a worse suffering, the suffering of eternal hell. Therefore we do not stop Death in His course, nor do we influence Him to speed up his course. We leave be the will of Death, Mr. Ross. That is our doctrine.”
Ross interrogated, “Who’s ‘our,’ Mr. Moreno? You and who else? Where’s the rest of your congregation? Just you three? Those two overly pale face, juvenile, gothic punks that work for you?”
“The Government’s planet, Mr. Moreno! You don’t rule this planet, the Global Government does, and the people who support it.”
“Yes, that’s right! I am insulting your ways, Mr. Moreno! You people take the time to glorify your ‘god’, Death, but take no compassion on the ones your god ‘takes’ from the universe; in fact, you show even less compassion to the ones who are still alive, the ones who need euthanasia, for instance.”
“Much in the same way you take no compassion for the ones you send here to get buried because nobody on Earth cares about them; you relocate them, exile them to be precise--but you dare not use that term because you’re ‘not inhumane people’--you exile them off of their own planet like the 19th century Americans did with the Native Americans with their land and like the 20th and 21st century Americans did with my Mexican ancestors in their south- western United States homeland. You do that because the living don’t remember the names of the dead or how they relate to the dead, and so you tear out their graveyards, their neighborhoods, and transport them over here like garbage, Mr. Ross, like garbage to be dumped in a remote Gehenna!”
“We transport them here because the majority voted for that kind of method to make room for the living.”
“In death!” Ross barked.
“That’s true, Mr. Moreno, you do have authority over this planet, I’m sorry to admit. But I will be back with higher authority from Earth, Mr. Moreno, do you understand that? I will be back with higher authority to investigate this case!” He was yelling near to the point of
losing his breath. “Because this is all a disgrace to turn a place of burial into one’s own aesthetic theme park. Building a haunted castle on a monument planet! You’re sick!”
The two attendants met Ross at the front gate, Luther saying to him, “The bodies are loaded.”
Ross thanked him without expression and headed back to the ship through the moaning wind.
Luther and Felicia met
in his study. He asked, “Did you load
all three of them?” Moreno
Luther said, indifferently, that they had.
Dead of expression, Felicia answered in the affirmative.
“Good. It will be the only way that
Earth will ever believe us. Earth, that
foolish world with its beliefs merely in the so called here-and-now, merely in
that which can be explained and rationalized, only that which can be shown in
the light! Well the people of Earth are
going to find out that all cannot have light shed on it, not even on things
that shed blood, and that we are not above God no matter how advanced in
science and technology we are! There is
still mystery in this universe--” As he spoke he was looking out the window,
and then suddenly slumped down onto the floor with no resistance. Moreno
Luther checked the old man’s pulse. He looked up at Felicia saying, “Death has taken him.”
Without expression, Felicia said, “Do we have time to embalm him?”
Luther looked out the window for several seconds and then said, “We will have to put him in deep freeze. We can’t lose any time. The three generals will be back on Earth soon expecting the squadrons and troops. . . .” He glared at the endless fields of grave stones as he continued, “Whom we have yet to awaken.”
Ross’s ship was already fleeing through black space several miles out of Memoria’s atmosphere when he and his co-pilot heard the sounds from below. The sounds were like three coffin lids dropping. Ross, confused, walked toward the elevator to check them out.